Sunday, 12 June 2016

A Very English Night In Marseille

They build you up to let you down. That will be thoughts of the tens of thousands of Englishmen and woman as they leave the Stade Velodrome in Marseille tonight, as after days of unrest and violence in the city, it seemed that for once our national team would be able to put in a opening game victory and end their plethora of underwhelming starts to European Championships; we would finally get it right and bring back the three points. But just as we all knew in the back of our minds, in typical English fashion it would all be thrown away. As following Eric Dier’s wonder free kick prompting celebrations up and down our great nation, with fans starting to wonder if we could really ‘bring it home’, our hearts where shattered as the Russian captain Vasili Berezutski towered above Danny Rose to rescue a point for his nation and to leave English fans with those all to familiar feelings of disappointment, anger and frustration.

The game itself began well with United and England captain leading the midfield and helping to fashion a chance for Adam Lallana who’s well struck shot was straight at the keeper, who palmed it over the bar for a corner. Kane was the next Englishmen to come for Akinfeev’s goal, with the lethal striker coming agonisingly close to getting a touch on Spurs’ teammate Delle Alli’s pass. The three lions kept up pressure on the Russians with a number of corners coming, the first majority of which sailed over all the men in the box, that is apart from one finely struck Harry Kane corner, the corner was met with the strong head of United’s Chris Smalling but sadly it was once again straight at the Russian shot stopper Akinfeev. Despite England’s sustained pressure the Russians were still a threat going forward and especially from set pieces, with Sergei Ignashevich heading a sweetly struck ball straight at England’s Joe Hart, however this certainly showed that this would not be an enitely one-way game. The only other noteworthy point in the half came as Manchester city’s £49 million man Raheem Sterling looked to be in behind and set up for a one on one with Akinfeev, yet somehow Ignor Smolnikov made a heroic last ditching sliding tackle to ensure that the two countries went in at half time all level.

As the second half began it was clear the Russians had been given a stern telling off at half time and started in a much better fashion, with many England fans wondering whether they would rue all of those missed chances in the first half. With Eric Dier even almost putting the ball into his own net after a poorly timed header almost sent the ball flying into the goal but thankfully the gloves of Hart were on hand to push ball over the bar. With just 20 minutes to play, England stepped up the intensity and went looking for a winner with both Rooney and Lallana coming so close just seconds apart from each other as after a Rooney shot was pushed onto the woodwork Lallana himself then finessed the ball into the post when it looked easier to score, but it should be noted that the latter of the two attempts, coming from Lallana, was in fact flagged for offside. However with just over 10 minutes left on the clock and a free kick just outside the box, an unlikely hero stepped forward, the man in question being Eric Dier who hit an exquisite David Beckham-esque free kick soaring into the net and had surely given England the three points. But it wasn’t to be as with the minutes and then seconds ticking down in Marseille with England getting deeper and deeper the Russians grabbed a late cruel equaliser to once again leaving us thinking what could have been. But the drama was not to be over, with emotions running high and the pressure becoming increasingly intense, England keeper Joe Hart made a ridiculous run across from his goal, leaving his box in order to reach the ball, only to be beaten there by a Russian whom if he could have worked some space may have had the opportunity to inflict even further pain on England fans, however thankfully, this time for once the Three Lions had a very rare piece of luck.

Despite the sadness and anger that fans will inevitably be feeling we can take heart from the fact that this was a positive attacking performance and on another night we could have comfortably of taken the game away from the Russians in the first half. But as always it is only the goals that matter and if we are to be serious players in this tournament, it is vital that we learn to take our chances. But on a positive note our heroes from 1966 were unable to take victory on their opening outing in the tournament, here’s to hoping the that Roy’s Boys of 2016 will be able to pull off a similar turn around and give this great country some much deserved footballing glory. COME ON ENGLAND!

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